The Islamic Threat

When ISIS crazies promise to raise their flag over Washington DC, you might picture some kind of foreign invasion and shrug off the threat as idle bombast. But I don’t think they’re talking about an attack from overseas. I think they’re picturing something much more insidious – a campaign from within.

In the most unlikely parts of America, there are homegrown Islamic insurrectionists working to spread their toxic doctrine.  Some are known to the watchdogs assigned to protect Americans from terrorists. Some are not.

Most Muslims are like most Christians and most Jews – peaceful and reasonable people worshiping their Creator in the way they find most fulfilling. But the Islamic zealots pose a special threat to the rest of the world. As I understand it, the extremists interpret Islamic dogma to include a mission to conquer the earth.  There is even a mandate to “kill the infidel.”

I don’t often agree with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but he made a valid point in a recent address to the UN. He said the Islamic extremists regard their religion as a master faith in the same way the Nazis conceived Aryans as the “master race.” And, he argued, they pose the same kind of threat to the world.

Throughout the West, extremist Islamic clerics are preaching this doctrine – and have been for years. I suspect that young immigrants from Muslim countries, who tend to be dark skinned, become easy prey for these clerics because of the racist slurs and affronts they experience. I am sure you remember all those “Paki jokes,” for example.

The conversion of these young people is also enabled by economic and social conditions that make them feel disregarded and unwanted. As social and economic injustice increases in the West, a fertile breeding ground is created for disenchantment and hate.

In America, clerics like Ahmad Musa Jibril of Dearborn, Michigan have developed a significant following over the years through their incendiary lectures and their messages in social media.  The Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence calls Jebril the most popular inspirational figure for Western fighters flocking to join ISIS.

This is a perplexing situation. Obviously, there is much to fear. Theirs is a doctrine of terror and barbarism, and it cannot be permitted to prevail.

But I doubt that it can be defeated with violence. I believe it can only be countered by enlightenment.

While the authorities must obviously take steps to root out the potential terrorists and the dangerous clerics who inspire them, we must beware of demonizing the Muslim faith and the millions who practice it peacefully and harmlessly.

Ultimately, it is love that conquers hate, tolerance that defeats dogma, acceptance that cures alienation.

Click to watch Ahmad Musa Jibril at work.

Click for more on ISIS global threat.

 

A Dreary Election

Is it just the rainy weather we’re having in Central Florida that’s making me depressed? Or is this the dreariest American election ever? Another day another Koch Brothers outrage – apparently they’re flooding North Carolina with false voter-registration mailings to confuse voters. Surely, by now nobody opens campaign mail? I throw mine in the recycling bin without a second glance.  Don’t you?

If you still don’t know who you’re voting for and why, you probably aren’t voting.

It seems everything that can be said has been said, and every lie that can be invented has been aired.

But that doesn’t stop the hucksters repeating their sales pitches or the liars lying their heads off. The airwaves and our mailboxes are full of their handiwork.

And let’s not forget the dirty tricks. Blatant voter suppression is the latest trend and the courts are giving it their blessing. If you’re a minority or anyone else who usually votes Democrat, you will probably have to go to a lot of extra trouble to exercise your franchise in November. But surely you know that by now. And surely you’re taking steps to work around the voter suppression laws. It’s the price of liberty, right? Eternal vigilance?

And the begging!

My in-basket is full of emails demanding contributions for one campaign or another. Some are pleading. Some are aggressive. Some try to shame me into sending them money.

Is there no dignity left in politics?

I have sent a few dollars, and I refuse to be bullied or cajoled into sending more. I am offended by the tone of those emails.

.Even if I had planned to contribute, this avalanche of supplication has turned me off.

I know, I am being selfish and petulant. Think about the good of the country, you say.  Think about the deep pockets of the Republican donors. Think about the consequences of this election. Think about the horrors that would result from a Republican victory.

You’re right as usual. But even if they win, they will have only two years to wreak havoc, and after that Americans will surely be ready to throw them out for good. A victory in November could give them enough rope to hang themselves.

The pundits are already obsessing over 2016. The hot news is that Hillary is a grandmother.  And one TV personality was heard speculating that baby Charlotte is weighing the possibility of a presidential run in 2036.

By then American elections might become more inspiring.

We can always hope.

Click for the latest Koch Brothers trickery.

Click for the latest on Hillary.

 

Beware the Chikungunya!

Adult female yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti (Linnaeus), in the process of seeking out a penetrable site on the skin surface of its host.

Every November, my brother Bill and his wife Faye head for Jamaica to recharge their batteries. They stay at the same North Coast resort and usually rent a car to roam about the island and bask in a rosy nostalgic glow. It’s something thousands of Jamaicans who now live abroad will be doing. Some of them will be going home to stay for good.

Who can blame them? Jamaica is an enchanted land and its allure is irresistible.

But, sadly, I have a word of warning to my fellow-Jamaicans who are heading home this year: Watch out for the mosquitoes. Yes, mosquitoes. I know, they have mosquitoes in America – and Canada, and just about everywhere else on the face of the earth. The problem is that these are not just any breed of mosquito, these are carriers of the chikungunya virus.

In a recent broadcast message, Jamaican Health Minister  Fenton Ferguson warned that the chikungunya virus is spreading across Jamaica and “everyone is susceptible.”

The mosquito-borne virus spread rapidly through the Caribbean and parts of Latin America after it was introduced to the French dependency of St. Martin late last year.

It has even reached parts of the southern US. Cases have been reported in such states as Texas. And experts warn the virus could quickly make its way into Florida (where I live!) because Florida’s climate is so similar to that of the Caribbean.

Some deaths have been reported but the illness caused by this virus is rarely fatal. It’s very painful, however. Victims report such excruciating joint pain that they can’t walk. Symptoms also include fever, muscle pain, headaches and a rash.

There is no known cure or vaccine. The affliction spreads unchecked until populations gradually develop immunity to the virus.

Chikungunya, which has been known for decades in parts of Africa and Asia, is carried by the same mosquitoes that carry yellow fever and dengue fever. These mosquitoes usually bite during the day. Health authorities in the US warn travelers to countries with chikungunya virus to “use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.”

I wonder why the powers that be haven’t eradicated the mosquitoes that carry this virus, the way they did with malaria. I read that the Tobago House of Assembly is embarking on an island-wide clean-up to combat the virus. The campaign includes spraying and clearing abandoned lots. But I don’t know of anything like that happening in Jamaica – or Florida.

Click for more on the virus in Jamaica.

 

I Don’t Get the Ryder Cup

http://d37fcqijlx1yog.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/ryder-cup-Europe-fans_anchor.jpg

I got up in the wee hours twice this weekend to watch the Ryder Cup, and now that the tumult and the shouting has died I am left wondering why I didn’t stay in bed. What I saw was confusing and unsatisfying.

It’s not just because the Americans lost to Europe.  And it’s not just because the loss was so embarrassing.

Throughout the absurdly overhyped event, I felt … uncomfortable.

The competition seemed to ring false. I could not believe that a crowd of Scots, who had come within a whisker of voting to separate from England just a few days earlier, were really that excited about a German golfer sinking a birdie putt. Or a Spanish golfer. Or a French golfer. Or even an Irish golfer.

To me, the chants of “Europe!, Europe!”  sounded ridiculous.

But I suppose any chant would have sounded odd.

I have played and watched golf during most of my 80 years, and I have never before heard a gallery singing battle songs or seen spectators high-fiving and leaping about with such abandon. (Or dancing – as Jose Maria Olazabal did on one occasion.) And I’ve never seen golf fans rigged out in such weird costumes (photo above).

Such carrying-on would be unthinkable at the courses where I’ve played. Some courses don’t even allow golfers to wear blue jeans or T-shirts.

The golf that I am familiar with is a quiet sport, played in serene surroundings. It’s part of the ancient game’s charm. Mostly, we mosey along in silence, muttering “Good shot” or “Bad luck” as the circumstances dictate.

Legendary Ben Hogan is said to have had only two words for opponents during a round of golf, “You’re away,” signaling that it was their turn to play and they should get on with it.

Furthermore, I don’t believe that American captain Tom Watson could have done anything to change the outcome. He could have arranged the teams differently, of course. And he could have selected different players at different times. But I bet it would have ended the same. American golf isn’t what it used to be.

Tiger is missing. Phil is sick and getting old – old and grumpy (he attracted criticism for daring to suggest Tom Watson’s captaincy was not perfect).

And there are no successors to Tiger and Phil on the horizon. Sorry, American fans, Jordan Spieth is no Tiger. Patrick Reed is no Tiger. And Rickie Fowler looked like a rain-drenched kitten during  his whuppin’ by Rory McIlroy.

Don’t get me wrong. These are among my favorite golfers. But my favorites all showed their feet of clay this weekend.

Not that I blame them.

It must have been bitter cold out there in the forbidding foothills of the Scottish Highlands. And the wind was fierce. I have visited Scotland a couple of times, and I understand why my Scottish  forbears moved to Jamaica.

I shivered just watching on TV.

And the format. Who still plays “foursomes” (also known as alternate-shot)? To me, there are few things in life more frustrating than hitting every other shot. And I can’t recall ever seeing Sunday golfers playing the game. They might still play that way in Scotland, but not in America.

I know, I know, I sound like a bad sport.

I should be saying something like, “Well played, old chap.”

And yes, the European team did play well, a lot better than the Americans.

But was it really golf?

Click here for more on the Ryder Cup.

Click for more on the format.

 

The Biggest Losers

retirement

In my view, all Americans stand to lose if the Republicans win control of Congress – not just the obvious groups like unions, women, ethnic minorities, students, would-be immigrants and so on. The GOP’s obsolete ideas and plutocratic policies will spell immediate misery for all but the filthy rich. And even they can look forward to ultimate disaster as the society disintegrates, taking them down along with everyone else.

A demographic group that spans all races, professions and genders can expect to be among the first to suffer.

I’m talking about you working stiffs who are panting down the home stretch of your careers, counting the days to your retirement.

If the GOP gets in, those days will suddenly multiply. The home stretch will stretch and stretch and stretch…

The Campaign for America’s Future spotlighted your peril today with an email that began:

The Republicans have made big promises to their ultra-wealthy financial backers: Should they take the Senate, they promise to cut ‘entitlements’ and pass the savings on with more tax cuts for the 1%.

Entitlements. That’s what politicians call your Social Security and Medicare. And you need to qualify for those before you can retire, don’t you?

But you can expect a retirement age of 70 if the Republicans get their way. And say goodbye to Medicare as we know it. The GOP has a privatization plan for that popular program waiting in the wings.

The Campaign for America’s Future backs up its warning with these observations:

  • Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who would become chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposed legislation to raise the retirement age to 70 and supported President Bush’s plans to privatize the system.
  • Representative Bill Cassidy, who hopes to replace Mary Landrieu as senator from Louisiana, has pledged to raise the retirement age to 70 and turn Medicare into a voucher program.
  • Senators Ron Johnson and Ted Cruz both refer to Social Security as a “Giant Ponzi Scheme.” Cruz went further, going on the record with the Texas Tribune for privatization. As Texas solicitor general, he even sued the federal government to strike down Medicare’s prescription benefit.
  • Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said he’d prefer “savings in entitlement programs rather than defense spending.”

I know you might not agree with the Democrats on everything, but if you are looking forward to retirement, are you prepared to spend several more years in that job of yours to back up your ideology?

I know I wouldn’t if I were you. But I am already collecting my retirement checks. It’s your retirement that’s at stake here.

 

Women Hold the Key

“The hand that rocks the cradle” does not rule the world. But it could. And in my view the world would be better for it.

I was surprised to hear MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow declare unequivocally last night that if young women abandon their long-standing behavior pattern and vote, “Democrats will win this election.”

She was talking about Cosmopolitan Magazine’s decision to endorse candidates in the November midterms. And she was speculating that the magazine, which usually deals with issues related to the bedroom not the town hall, could motivate young women when politicians and pundits have failed.

I hope she is right. I was helping Sandra make some calls on behalf of Charlie Crist the other night, and one of the voices on the other end of the line was obviously that of a young female. Would she vote for Charlie?

“I don’t vote,” she said flatly.

“Why?”

“I don’t vote.”

She hung up.

Mystifying isn’t it? And disheartening. If the young women aren’t voting, progressive candidates are going to be in trouble.

Those we see on TV are different, of course, but a lot of American women seem to take a back seat when it comes to politics. So many of them – the older ones especially – leave it to the man of the house to make those decisions.

Others rely on their priests or pastors for guidance.

It’s way past time for a chnge, isn’t it? And change just might be coming.

Even in the Muslim world, where women wear veils and so on, there seems to be a ripple of change in the air.

I just read a story about Major Mariam al-Mansouri, who led the squadron of UAE fighter jets that participated in raids Tuesday against ISIS in Syria. As you can see from the photo above, the 35-year-old air force officer is a woman.

We’re talking about an Arab country here, the most male dominated society in the world.

Is this a sign of global change?

We can always hope. At least Cosmo is changing.

Click for more on the Cosmo policy change.

Click for more on the UAE’s female fighter pilot.

 

An Ugly Alliance

saudi

 

It’s ironic that America finds itself allied with such unsavory characters in a morally motivated crusade against the barbarians of ISIS.  From what I know of the Saudi royal family, I wouldn’t put their pictures on any poster for benevolent government.

These dictators rule with an iron hand, I understand. And the society they rule seems to be little better than the Islamic state that the Suni extremists hope to create. From what I’ve read, it’s a society in which young girls are forced into marriage and women are forbidden to drive cars, for example.

Conditions are much the same in Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as far as I can determine. This alliance seems to be a particularly unsavory group of oppressive dictatorships.

By choosing such allies, America is sending a disturbing message to the world.

I know, President Obama did not want to be seen as waging a unilateral war against a Muslim group. But is it any better to be seen as the ally of brutal dictators?

I read that Turkey is expected to join the coalition. I know nothing about today’s Turkey, but history does not paint a rosy picture of that country’s past. Modern Turkey was built on the graves of the Christian population of the Ottoman Empire. And its brutal aggression against neighboring countries has left a toxic legacy in the Balkans. More recently, the Turkish government has been accused of bloody suppression of minorities – including the Kurds. And the Kurds in Iraq and Syria are America’s most reliable allies.

One of the factors in global terrorism is the way in which dictators like the Saudi princes behave. I suspect it’s America’s close ties with these despots that have made some terrorists so eager to strike at the United States.

To complicate the issue even more, America’s new allies are all Sunnis, and it was America that toppled the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein, clearing the way for a Shiite takeover of Iraq.

Do America’s strategists really expect the  Shiite Iraqis to fight shoulder to shoulder with their mortal enemies in the campaign against ISIS now? Do they expect the Sunni Iraqis to fight against ISIS, which is a Sunni sect albeit a rogue one,  in order to protect their Shiite government?

Another suspect notion is the idea of arming “moderate” rebels in Syria. Doesn’t the phrfase “moderate rebels” seem like an oxymoron to you? It does to me.

As things stand now, the United States and its Arab allies are bombing enemies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a bloody dictator America would like to see deposed.  Meanwhile, Congress has approved money to arm rfebels fighting Assad.

Once again, the US is fighting on both sides of a civil war. To my unschooled eyes, that looks like a sure way to lose.

Don’r get me wrong. I understand why the Obama administration is pursuing ISIS into Syria. For one thing, no group should be allowed to behead journalists and massacre minorities. For another, the ability of a violent jihadist organization to control a country of its own would present a terrifying threat to America.

But I wish America had different allies. Failing that, President Obama should have considered going it alone.

Click for more on the new war.

Click for the war profiteers.

Click for Turkey’s past.

Click for more on the Saudi princes.

Click for even more.

 

 

It’s a Sick, Sick World

kendall

As we teeter on the edge of World War III with Russian bombers being intercepted by Canadian fighter jets and with religious zealots raging out of control, leaving a bloody trail of severed heads, the issue of the day is…

Kendall Jenner’s weight.

I’m not sure who Kendall Jenner is but I am not in the know. I hide out here in the backwoods of Florida with my hands over my eyes and cotton in my ears.

I recall an Olympic athlete named Bruce Jenner. He was one of those Superman types. Remember? Perhaps Kendall is some kin of his.

Or maybe not. Names mean nothing out there in the world.

The sick, sick world.

It’s a world in which nothing makes sense. A world in which young women can be “fat shamed.”

That’s right. The lead item in Yahoo news today is a warning that “Kendall Jenner’s fat shaming hurts women.”

I don’t know any women who give a hoot about Kendall Jenner or the fashion police. But I do know a lot of men who like ‘em “fat” like that.

If that young lady is fat, then fat is cool.

Indeed, we Jamaican men might even like a few more inches on those hips. We don’t much fancy “mauger ‘ooman.”

So tell me why, as Yahoo reports:

The 18-year-old has been the subject of bullying claims and fat shaming in story after story, and the attention is not only damaging to the young adult herself, but also to her peers, admirers, and others, as well.

According to the story, “agents” are urging the model to lose 17 pounds. I guess they want her to starve herself and look like those anorexic boy/girls that fashion designers often get to show off their creations. That kind of pressure should be against the law.

While obesity is obviously undesirable and even dangerous, a reasonable level of body fat is essential to good health. And the experts will tell you women normally have more fat than men because of physiological differences such as ovulation.

Yahoo rightly deplores the culture of the super skinny. Assistant Editor Lauren Tuck observes:

Unfortunately, the media often irresponsibly covers matters related to women’s bodies, and it has the potential for serious harm.

Ms. Tuck reports that:

Sarah Jackson, a psychologist at University College London and a researcher for a recent fat-shaming study, tells Yahoo Style that weight-related teasing and stigmatization have been shown to have negative effects on well-being and can lead to psychological distress. She notes that Jenner is clearly very thin, and “calling her fat sends out a strong message to impressionable young readers that might inspire unhealthy aspirations for thinness and extreme dieting.

All I have to add to this timely warning to those “impressionable young readers” is that real men don’t like super-skinny chicks either.

Click for the Yahoo story.

Click for a healthy level of body fat.

 

Managing the Vote

repugsAs we head into the home stretch of this campaign season, Republicans are doing everything they can to keep anyone who might be a Democrat from voting. It’s so blatant it would be funny if it weren’t so alarming.

They have their work cut out for them. So little time, so many likely Democrats – poor people, black people, Hispanics, old people, women, students…

That’s what happens when you antagonize wide swaths of the electorate. But they’re giving it the old college try. In states across the country, the Republicans are passing laws demanding hard-to-get voter identification, cutting back on early voting and purging Democratic-sounding names from registration lists.

The campaign focuses most on minority voters. The ACLU sums up the situation this way:

Minority voters still face significant obstacles in registering to vote and casting ballots. Attempts to manipulate the law in ways that will disadvantage communities of color continue nationwide

But it’s also aimed at students and the disadvantaged of any complexion. More and more, the Republicans represent only middle-aged, white, male Americans. Rich white, male Americans. And they don’t want to let the rest of us get to a ballot box.

In this ugly scam, even the courts are complicit. I’m sure you remember how the right-wing Supreme Court justices struck a blow against democracy by gutting the Voting Rights Act? Well, the rest of the justice system is doing its part, too.

The latest example comes from Wisconsin, where the  Republican majority on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overruled a lower court’s decision and upheld a new law requiring some 300,000 residents  to go and get picture IDs if they want to vote. Not just any picture ID, specific kinds of ID that the Republican controlled legislature favors (and you know that doesn’t include student cards).

Wisconsin has lots of company.

As Leo W. Gerard writes in the Huffington Post today:

Since 2010, Republicans have passed voter-suppression laws in 22 states, and nearly half the nation’s population could be affected in November’s balloting. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP have succeeded in postponing and overturning some. That includes the one in Pennsylvania, where the law’s Republican supporters conceded in court they had absolutely no evidence of in-person voter fraud.

Voter fraud. That’s what the Republicans are protecting us against. Even though they can’t find any fraud.  You never know, there might be fraud somewhere some time.

Or not. According to Gerard’s article:

The Brennan Center for Justice studied the allegations of in-person voter fraud and described it as essentially a myth, an event that almost never occurs.

Voter ID laws are just a part of a broader strategy. You know about gerrymandering, of course. That’s where legislatures redraw voting districts to lump as many Democrats as possible into as few districts as possible, in some instances giving each Republican voter more than twice the clout of each Democratic voter.

Then there’s that trick they have of moving polling stations as far away as possible  from suspected Democratic hotbeds – like universities. And eliminating Sunday voting because they figure poor people can’t get time off during the week to vote.

With all this going on, I can’t imagine why any Democrat would voluntarily stay home in November.  You would think that those of us who can still vote wouldn’t let an army keep us from the polls.

Click to read Gerard’s article.

Click for more on voting rights,

Click for acceptable Wisconsin IDs.

 

Weird & Weirder in Kansas

I met a guy from Kansas once and he seemed quite normal. He was managing a phone company in Trinidad and we played a few rounds of golf together while I was on vacation there in the mid-1970s. But surely he must be an exception. From what I’m reading these days, Kansas is really, really weird.

For one thing, Kansas is one of the reddest of red states – despite the fact that their governor has inflicted economic disaster on the state by implementing the bogus policies you hear those Republicans preaching about. You know – subsidize the rich and corporations, and let the rest of us go hungry. That kind of thing.

The governor, a pig farmer’s son named Sam Brownback, eliminated taxes for small businesses, cut the highest income tax rates by 25 percent, and made smaller cuts for people with lower rates.

Of course, that left the state drowning in red ink and its residents without an array of essential services.

To their credit, some Kansans have figured out what’s going on – enough of them to put the governor’s job in jeopardy and even endanger long-serving Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who is up for re-election in November. So they’re going to vote Democrat, right?

Not necessarily. They might be fed up with the Republicans but those weird Jayhawks are not about to put a Democrat in the Senate.

They might, however, elect an Independent – specifically Independent Greg Orman.

So, with their majority in the Senate teetering on the brink, the Democrats decided to fight weird with weird. Democratic candidate Chad Taylor announced he was dropping out of the race so he wouldn’t split the anti-Roberts vote.

Weird enough for you? It gets weirder.

Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach refused to remove Taylor’s name from the ballot. He said Taylor hadn’t filled out all the right forms or something like that.

So the Democrats sued. And the Kansas Supreme Court decided Taylor had filled out the right forms and was officially out of the race. So is Kobach giving up?

No, this is Kansas. It gets weirder still. Kobach insists that Democrats must field a replacement candidate and he has given the party eight days to do it.

So where do we go from here? Who knows? This is Kansas, remember?

Click for more on the Kansas Senate race.

Click for more on the governor’s race.

Click for the economic disaster in Kansas.